Wednesday, 27 January 2010


This is so unbelievably disturbing I can't imagine. Yet it did get me to look at the ad.

iSlate of the Union

Some big announcements today in tech and politics. Some related thoughts about the intersection of both:

Anil Dash on the folly of Apple tablet frenzy:

"Our current President is listening to what your requests are, and wants to hear them. Steve Jobs doesn't give a fuck about you. I promise. I'm typing this on an Apple keyboard hooked up to a MacBook, and I don't use Windows anymore, but I guarantee you that Steve Jobs is not going to get those last Marines out of Iraq [...] Apple will invest a lot more in saving any given book publisher than they ever will in saving civic society, in protecting individuals' rights, or in engaging in diplomacy to neutralize the threat of violent extremists."

And, I've been skeptical until now, but maybe joining a Facebook group does mean something after all. Check out Matthew Ingram talking to Steve Paikin about "slacktivism."

Justin Kownacki wrote a great post explaining that "you are what you choose to care about." I'd take take that one further - that perhaps now, you are what you choose to be seen to care about. Which would be unfortunate, because I think it leads to a lot of uninformed judgements about what people are really about. Most of the people I know who are excited about the iTabSlateBookWhathaveyou are equally passionate about "bigger" causes but don't always make the same amount of public noise about their views on them or the activities they engage in to promote them. It may not seem like it at times, but not everyone shares everything about their lives to everyone all the time. It takes more than a Facebook feed to know what a person is really about. For example: not everyone who donated to the Haiti relief efforts tweeted that fact, or even has a Twitter account. True, efforts like these can be amplified if more people know about them, but some things still happen behind the scenes, and the results don't count for any less because they're not being broadcast for all to see.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Snuffalupagus and Social Media

So. I see you're trying a new format tonight. 



Well, I get these ideas, see? But when I start to write them down, they just sound flat. And then I lose interest in writing them, because if I'm not really jazzed about writing them, who's going to be interested in reading them? So I thought that having an imaginary friend to bounce these ideas off of would liven things up a bit. You know, make things more interesting. Plus, 70s pop-culture references play well these days. Disney just bought the marketing rights to the Muppets, you know.


Yes. Is that your response, or are you seeking clarification?

Not sure.

Plus, I always wondered if I could actually write dialogue. It seemed like hard work in my mind.

Many things do.


Also, sometimes, like in live conversations, I need those helper words to keep the flow going. There are people who pay money to learn how to do this. I'm trying to teach myself, to save money.

So I'm not getting paid, then. 

No, you're a figment

Says you. So what were you going to call this post? 

Originally, something along the lines of "What Jacques Ellul can teach us about social marketing." But then I balked, because I thought I'd never get any traffic because I doubt Jacques Ellul is a popular search term.

You're probably right. Google analytics could tell you. 

No doubt.

So, title, aside, what was your point? 

Well, I've been seeing and reading a lot of research lately about web behavior and user behavior and how these to interact and influence each other. I really think that if you want to understand how to succeed with any particular medium, you need to understand the building blocks of that medium - how it's composed. Basic McLuhan stuff. The medium never stopped being the message.

Go on...

See, "electronic communications" in McLuhan's day referred to TV and Radio. These were analog technologies. They were biological at their root. What we're dealing with now, with what I'll call "digital communications," is something else entirely.

How so?

Look at the technology that's driving it all - it's binary. Code. Trillions of transistors saying "yes" and "no" but never anything in between. I think you can make the argument that this kind of dynamic reflects the kinds of attitudes we see now in our media  and public discourse - increasing polarization; an inability to "come together," if you will. That's where the Jacques Ellul thing comes in - that the character of the technology determines how it will be transmitted and received.It seems that every question facing the public now very quickly degenerates into polar opposites shouting at each other. It's either/or, not "and."

No "and"

Right. No "and." Another working title for this entry was going to be "Whither 'And'" or "Where does 'and' live?." But c'mon, I'd like people to read this.

I'm reading it. 

You don't have a choice.

But, look at the studies that have come out about the younger folks - they're online and connected every waking hour. And they have no problem connecting on bigger issues and mobilizing large numbers of people.

True. But you also see a lot of instant, unthinking judgements as well. I'm not saying that in this new way of thinking you can't have meaningful dialogue or accomplish things. But I think you need to understand that you'll need to come at it in a different way. And looking for the middle ground - the compromise - may not be the right way anymore. Electronic communications are instant and unthinking. It's biological, too, but more like an amoeba responding to a poke.

That's what I feel we've lost as our culture has moved from analog to digitial culture. Analog is hard work. It has a tangible, physical element that doesn't exist in our world anymore. It implies compromise. The end result may be the same in the digital realm, but you learn differently. You respect the end product more, I believe, when you've rolled up your sleeves and gotten your hands dirty or marked up tape with a china marker.

Now you sound like an old fogey.

I know. But I do see encouraging signs. So many user interfaces now blend the efficiency of the digital with the elegance of analog controls. there's probably still a long way to go.

Question: Weren't we talking about social media? 

Yes, yes we were. But my mind tends to wander. Well, not wander. It takes a lot of tangents. The stops along the way are related. There is a thread, but not everyone sees it.

Ok. I hope i get better at this. 

You will. See, work stuff bleeds into home stuff. And it's natural for me to think about how I'm doing my work and how my brain works while I'm working. There's the work, and the meta work. And now you get to read about it all.

Oh, lucky me.

Altered Reality...

Blows. At least as deployed in the December 2009 issue of Esquire. Pictures below reveal this blog author in various stages of frustration trying to make the G-D thing work. If you're up for similar frustration, or more talented than I at turning things, check it out here.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

I need a shower

So I gave up a thrashing on the soccer field for a thrashing of another kind - an hour-long discussion by photographer Edward Burtynsky. Tony Fouhse blogs about the show and the work more effectively here. Burtynsky's large-scale photos of large-scale industrial installations - dams, mines, manufacturing plants and such are beautiful and terrifying and beautiful - a  body of work he describes as a "long visual lament" of the effect of our human activity on the planet. To wit, in China:

  • The government plans an urban-rural population split of 70/30 percent. This means a wave of humanity as large as the combined populations of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
  • At any one time, there are as many chickens as there are humans on the planet.
  • The largest factories can feed 7,000 people in 20 minutes.
At the heart of Burtynsky's work is the dilemma - a polite understatement, given the implications of the sites he's been shooting - we all face. Our existence on this planet inevitably involves using its resources. Yet our quest for comfort - and other countries' pursuit of our own comfortable lifestyle - may render it uninhabitable.